Michigan Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra on Monday defended his controversial Super Bowl political attack ad that critics have called racially insensitive, saying it does not reflect criticism of China.
The ad, which opens with the sound of a gong and other traditional Asian tones, features a young Asian actress riding a bike in what appears to be a rice field. With what appears to be a straw hat resting against her back, she addresses the camera and thanks Democratic incumbent Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow - who is called "Debbie Spend-it-now" - in broken English. (Watch at left.)
"Debbie spend so much American money," the woman says. "You borrow more and more, from us, Your economy get very weak. Ours get very good." The ad implies that she is Chinese but never mentions China or any other nation by name.
"We take your jobs," the woman continues, with a smile and a shrug. "Thank you Debbie Spend-it-now."
The Michigan chapter of the group Asian & Pacific Islander American Vote called the spot "very disturbing" and said in a statement that Hoekstra's campaign "chose to use harmful negative stereotypes that intrinsically encourage anti-Asian sentiment."
A group of African-American ministers in Detroit called on Hoekstra to apologize for the ad, which appeared during the Super Bowl in Michigan, with Rev. Charles Williams II comparing it to "having a black person speaking in slave dialect," as the Huffington Post reported.
GOP consultant Mike Murphy, meanwhile, simply called the spot "really, really dumb."
In a conference call with reported Monday morning, Hoekstra, a former congressman, denied that the ad is racially insensitive.
"The ad is only insensitive to Debbie Stabenow and her spending," Hoekstra said, adding that "it doesn't criticize the Chinese at all."
Hoekstra said the ad illustrates the fact that China benefits from the "recklessness" of U.S. economic policy. He said the response has been "overwhelmingly positive" and said he is "excited" because "it has jumpstarted the debate" about what he cast as Stabinow's support for reckless spending.
"It's about stopping spending in Washington, and this ad starts the debate," he told reporters.
China has become an
In the 2010 campaign cycle, the National Republican Campaign Committee ran an ad asking if Indiana Democrat Baron Hill is "running for Congress in Indiana - or China?" In the background of the spot, ominous music played as a Chinese flag was seen on the red-tinged screen.
It was one of at least two-dozen spots in that cycle that pointed to China in order to criticize a political opponent.